Let’s talk about veganism. The v-word.
As a vegan, I’m always on the lookout for new vegan restaurants to try, and the recent boom in restaurants offering menus or at least menu options for vegans and vegetarians in Edmonton has been such a treat. Montreal-based chain Copper Branch, which opened in December on Jasper Ave and 103rd street, is the latest option for us Edmonton plant-eaters, and I was not disappointed.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in was how well lit the space was, and how it smelled of spices. It was right around noon and the place was about three-quarters full, but I didn’t have any trouble finding a seat. Copper Branch’s hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends, so if you want to avoid the lunch rush, visit after 1:30 but before dinner.
The decor is — aptly — shades of bright copper and verdigris, and not too pretentious despite stereotypes. It’s a modern, comfortable, and pleasant atmosphere. Everything was shiny and new, and it made me wish I had brought someone with me.
The format of Copper Branch is somewhere between fast food and fast casual, with an emphasis on “plant-based power foods.” These are dishes billed as ultra-healthy and full of trendy ingredients such as avocados, chickpeas, goji berries, and the like. Looking at the menu, it’s clear that the focus is on the ingredients, and not the format of the food; while there are burgers and even a poutine on the menu, these aren’t designed to trick you into thinking they’re meat. A great example of these are the “power bowls,” which are just that: bowls of ingredients designed to fit into a flavour profile, such as Mediterranean, Asian fusion, etc.
Like the decor, the menu isn’t as pretentious as your stereotypical vegan restaurant. Fancy-sounding dishes like the “New Bangkok Thai Seasonal Soup” and “Carrot Keftedes with Aïoli Sauce” are up there happily beside familiar items like buffalo wings, baked nachos, and a chocolate brownie (albeit made with zucchini). This is a great place for veteran vegans to bring their omnivore parents because of the successful mix of familiar and innovative dishes.
Loving beets as I do, I chose the signature Copper Burger, with a side of their oven-baked “fries,” and a can of ginger kombucha from the cooler next to the counter. The Copper Burger consists of a patty made from “Beets, organic brown rice, pea protein, sesame seeds, non-GMO hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, lemon juice,” and is topped with “dijon and maple vegenaise (vegan mayo substitute), caramelized onions, alfalfa sprouts, [and] lettuce” (directly from their menu). And let me tell you, this was an all-out burger experience, as good as any.
The burger is tall and fully loaded, and the bright pink patty (due to the beets) is so appetizing. I had mine served on a kamut bun which was light and had a nice nuttiness. Once I managed to take a bite, I instantly noticed the nest of alfalfa sprouts giving a fresh green runway for the richer flavours of caramelized onion and maple veganaise to take off from. The patty itself is smooth in texture and a pleasant combination of earthy and sweet. This is all cut by the tangy dijon, which leaves a zippy aftertaste that I couldn’t get enough of. After this first bite, I noticed pink beet juice dripping down my hands, and was reminded of a classic diner burger — completely stacked, juicy, messy, and so so so delicious.
The fries were well seasoned, but to my surprise, they came cut into cubes and looked nothing like the photo on their online menu. This could be due to some regional difference, or some mistake, as the restaurant is the first of the chain to open in Alberta, but it was a little surprising. That being said, these “fries” were great, especially when dipped in the aioli that they came with. The blend of spices was perfect, and they hit that sweet spot that makes us all love fried potato-dishes: crispy on the outside but soft in the middle.
All in all, Copper Branch offers an excellent meal, and the price is decent for what you get. It costs 20 dollars for the burger, a generous helping of “fries,” and a canned drink, which is great concerning how innovative the concept is and how good it makes you feel. Copper Branch fits perfectly into Edmonton’s plant-based restaurant scene, offering something new, affordable, healthy, and quick.